Why Him? – 2 out of 5
Meeting the parents, that’s a comedy trope we’ve seen over and over again—hell, they literally made a movie (and several sequels) about it and titled that very thing. Seeing this premise done so many times, it’s hard to tell it in a new way. Why Him? looks like it is trying to do something new on the surface but is this a brand new take on the same old thing we’ve seen or is this just another tired rehash? Well, I’ll put it this way: Swearing and adding toilet humor doesn’t really make the old fresh again.
|This time it's different because the boyfriend is a wild man. Can't you tell|
by his lack of shirt.
|Every time I saw Franco I kept thinking, "I can't wait|
for The Disaster Artist."
Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) is just an average Midwestern family man trying to run his company and he gets the shock of a lifetime when he finds out his daughter; Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), is in a relationship and wants the whole family to come and visit so they can meet him. Ned, along with his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and his son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) pack up and fly out to the coast to meet Laird Mayhew (James Franco). It’s a clash of two different worlds as the modest Flemings come to terms with the tattooed, eccentric and crass CEO of a video game company that Stephanie is dating. Will Ned get along with this young man that is so different than his conservative values or will he do whatever he can to end this relationship?
|Meet the parents...in this film (yes, I made two references to that movie!)|
The biggest problems I had with Why Him? is the fact this story has been done so many times and just adding some vulgarity isn’t really making it something new. It feels like it is just putting some edgy-esque humor on an otherwise clichéd story. Just adding in some F-bombs and some dick jokes doesn’t change the fact that this film hits all the same beats and plot points that every other film about a guy meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time hits. Making the boyfriend wild and crazy doesn’t change the fact that this story has been done ad nauseam. The film is not without its moments of humor and there were plenty of moments that made me giggle (nearly every scene with Keegan-Michael Key as Laird’s assistant Gustav cracked me up) but these moments aren't very numerous and they weren’t strong enough to distract from the tired story.
|I'm not above toiler humor. Sometimes it works and, in this scene, it worked|
Another element that really halted me from getting immersed in this one is the lack of chemistry between James Franco and Bryan Cranston. I think highly of both performers and I anticipated their styles would work well together as two conflicting personalities but, sadly, they just didn’t look like they gelled to me. Both I found funny when they were on their own or with other performers but there was something lacking when they shared scenes together. There almost seemed to be a lack of tension between the characters and it almost felt like both actors were just going through the motions when they shared scenes. This lack of palpable animosity from one and a desire for acceptance from the other made it very difficult to get invested in the story or sympathize with either man’s desire to either love or hate the other. It was very strange that I saw them work very well with other members of the cast in other scenes but feel so flat when they were together by themselves.
|He's trying to remember if he's the one who knocks.|
Why Him? definitely have its moments that are genuinely hilarious. Keegan-Michael Key has a few scene stealing moments, Megan Mullally is quite amusing, Griffin Gluck has a great scene with James Franco when they’re characters first meet and both Franco and Cranston have sequences that are very funny but, overall, the film didn’t feel like that strong of a comedy. Add in the fact that this story has been done maybe one too many times and it’s a recipe for a generic comedy throwaway feature. It’s never terrible and there’s nothing happening with the story that makes it hard to sit through but with two leads that just didn’t feel like they were really at odds with each other and dealing with a story that’s been done, the whole feature just felt overly familiar but not in a welcoming, warm way; instead more of an “I’ve seen this already” and tiresome way.
|I almost forgot about the cool cameo by a guy who we are definitely going|
to one day find out he's a James Bond-level super-villain.
|Some of the other cameos weren't so cool...|